Dramatic Omega-3 Discovery
A critical genetic variation rules our ability to make essential omega-3s from plant foods; this may explain why rates of disease vary by ethnicity and diet
by Craig Weatherby
Short-chain omega-3 ALA from plant foods
Long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA) from seafood and fish oil
How do omega fatty acids affect health?
Long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids exert their most important effects in two ways:
Omega-3s are invariably used to make inflammation-moderating or inflammation-ending eicosanoids, resolvins, and protectins.
In contrast, omega-6s typically form the basis of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. (The situation is not entirely black-and-white … under certain conditions, some omega-6s are used to make inflammation-moderating eicosanoids.)
In addition, our cells sense certain food constituents – including omega fatty acids and the carotenes and polyphenols in plant foods – as signals that affect gene “switches.”
These switches are proteins (e.g., transcription factors, cytokines, and kinases) that affect the expression of working genes in charge of key functions such as inflammation and food metabolism.
For example, omega-3 fatty acids influence two key gene transcription factors – nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) and peroxisome-proliferator-activated-receptor-gamma (PPAR-γ) – in ways that moderate inflammation and enhance sugar metabolism, respectively.
Haplotype A shown in blue, type D shown in red.